Chicken Tortilla Soup

Fabulous Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is one of my favorite soups, and I’ve encountered many variations of it over the years. The best one, in my opinion, comes from the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, and is the inspiration for our streamlined version here.

  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 8 6-inch flour tortillas, julienned (cut into thin strips)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion (from 1 ½ to 2 medium onions)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about ¾ pound)
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 large ripe Hass avocado, cut into 1/2 –inch cubes
  • 1 cup shredded, aged cheddar
  • ½ pint sour cream, for garnish

1. Fill a large pot to a depth of 3 to 4 inches with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium-hihg heat until it reaches 350°F. The temperature of the oil should not exceed 375° F., nor should it begin to smoke. Once the oil is hot enough, lower the heat to medium. Add the tortilla strips and fry until crisp and golden, about 1 minute. Remove the strips with a skimmer or slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low flame. Add the onion, cumin, paprika, cayenne, coriander, and half the tortilla chips. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the stock, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, and 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro.  Season the chicken breast with ½ tablespoon of salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

4. Remove the chicken and bay leaf with a slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken and set aside. Discard bay leaf.

5. Purée 2 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor, taking care not to overload the bowl. Return the blended soup to the pot and continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes. (Or purée additional batches of soup, 2 cups at a time, depending upon your desired consistency- even purée all of it if you like.)

6. Transfer the soup to a large serving bowl and add the reserved shredded chicken, the avocado, cheese, and the remaining tablespoon of cilantro. Garnish with the reserved tortilla chips and sour cream and serve.

-Colin Cowie

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